I’ve been reading City of Thieves by David Benioff and it’s been great so far. Particularly if you’re into cold and bleak things.
I’ve been reading books about storytelling lately and recently I’ve been noticing writing in the sense of noticing the words and sentences and sometimes even the paragraphs. This isn’t entirely a good thing or even a good thing at all because it pulls me out of enjoying the story sometimes. My understanding is that I’m in fact not a special snowflake. I heard an author talk about it on (of course) a podcast I was listening to. They said that people ask him if he’s able to enjoy reading anymore and he says that he’s able to enjoy reading even more because he understand what’s going on.
Do magicians enjoy seeing other magic tricks?1 Probably but it does seem to be more like they’d enjoy it and think about how it was pulled off. (That said, a normal audience is also thinking the same thing unless you’re in a living room and there are many balloons and children.)
Here are some passages I enjoyed.
“People broke their teeth trying to chew it. Even today, even when I’ve forgotten the faces of people I loved, I can still remember the taste of that bread.”
This is funny. I wonder how long it takes to write something like that. Maybe it’s not long at all. Or maybe that line is version 27 of that line. You can feel how terrible that bread is. It sounds like chewing a Jenga piece.
I’d love to be able to write about my experiences like that. So I guess I can try right here. What’s some food that I didn’t enjoy lately?
Man, I really do like all food if I can’t think of food that wasn’t good. I guess because it’s a world of abundance and all that and I have things I don’t show enough gratitude for that if I eat something that isn’t good I can stop at a bite instead of having to dip it in oil in the middle of cold I can’t describe with words and chew on it then do it again after that (or else I die).
I’ll have to try it again when I’m a better writer.
Here’s a passage about sleeping:
“I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed. I was born an insomniac and that’s the way I’ll die, wasting thousands of hours along the way longing for unconsciousness, longing for a rubber mallet to crack me in the head, not so hard, not hard enough to do any damage, just a good whack to put me down for the night.”
My girlfriend is asleep as I write this. Her brain is definitely cleaner than mine. I try all sorts of sweeping. Meditation, running, reading fiction books about war with great passages about sleeping.
I can eventually sleep though. I definitely am not an insomniac. I’ve had those nights where you can’t fall asleep. I’d like to fall back asleep as I write this at 8:00 AM. Of course, how bad do I want it if instead I’m staring at a laptop screen? Probably not that bad. Certainly not as bad as any “How Bad Do You Want It?” YouTube compilation out there.
I had no idea Benioff was a writer. I didn’t know what a showrunner was until I heard them mentioned on podcasts in the past decade and probably more like the past five years.
Then I never really thought twice about what a showrunner’s background is2. I just thought maybe you’re just the guy who fixes the showrunner’s printer and you build a good rapport with the showrunner and one day mention your interest in being a showrunner because you were the showrunner once for your high school’s plays then you luck out and get an internship as a showrunner and just keep working your way up until you’re deciding if Stannis Baratheon should or should not burn his daughter alive. (“Let’s go with should.”)
I wouldn’t have guessed that being a novelist would be in a showrunner’s background. Though of course that makes sense that the people in charge of the direction of TV storylines are writers.
The book starts in the present with descriptions of a grandson and how he wants to capture his grandfather’s story. He sets up interviews and things like that.
It’s too late to do that with my grandparents. It’s not too late to do that with my parents. I should ask them about their life more. My dad was in the Navy in the late 70s from the Philippines. He probably has some stories.
The one time I really remember was at a dinner once with my dad’s brother and sister. They talked about my uncle Raul cutting class and joining a fraternity that was really mostly a gang. He said he joined thinking it was a fraternity and not realizing it was mostly a gang. He was part of its inception and only realized what it turned into when the second year started and they initiated the new blood.
That reminds me of a friend I grew up with that hung out with the wrong crowd when he first moved to our town. He didn’t realize how bad it was until he was being told to hold some kid’s legs down while the leader of the group threatened him with a knife. “Oh shit.”
Oh yeah. City of Thieves. Good so far. I’ll keep you updated. I need to read a happier book after it though. Like putting Friends on after watching a horror movie or some depressing documentary. I’ll take any recommendations. Maybe something a little warmer. (Oh yah, go read “The Terror” if you’re looking for other great descriptions of cold and starvation.)
Go check it out!